|Publication number||US7456549 B2|
|Application number||US 11/339,075|
|Publication date||Nov 25, 2008|
|Filing date||Jan 24, 2006|
|Priority date||Mar 2, 2001|
|Also published as||US7166953, US7378783, US7705521, US20020175598, US20060119225, US20070290577, US20080252176|
|Publication number||11339075, 339075, US 7456549 B2, US 7456549B2, US-B2-7456549, US7456549 B2, US7456549B2|
|Inventors||Jon Heim, Ronald E. Pelrine, Roy D. Kornbluh, Joseph Stephen Eckerle|
|Original Assignee||Sri International|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (36), Non-Patent Citations (32), Referenced by (16), Classifications (9), Legal Events (3)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims priority under U.S.C. §120 from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/090,231, filed Feb. 28, 2002 and entitled, “ELECTROACTIVE POLYMER ROTARY CLUTCH MOTORS” now U.S. Pat. No. 7,166,953; this patent application is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes and claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) from co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/273,108, filed Mar. 2, 2001, which is also incorporated by reference for all purposes.
The present invention relates generally to motors comprising one or more electroactive polymers. More particularly, the present invention relates to clutch motors and their use in various applications.
A motor converts from an input energy to mechanical energy. Most often, the mechanical energy is output as rotary motion of a shaft, but linear motors for translating a shaft are also commonly used. The most common class of input energy for a motor is electricity. Electric motors include AC, DC, servo, and stepper motors. Compressed air and pressurized hydraulic fluid are also used to power air and hydraulic motors. Gasoline or diesel engines are another traditional class of motors that rely on combustion of a fuel. Each of these motor classes has advantages and disadvantages that influence their usage.
For a DC motor, DC current is typically supplied from battery sources. Battery voltages are typically in multiples of 1.5 volts, with 12 volts being the most common. DC motors are made in different electrical configurations, each of which provides a different torque-speed relationship that describes how the motor will respond to an applied load at different speeds. For a permanent magnet DC motor, torque often varies inversely with speed. Since the power available for a DC motor is typically limited, an increase in torque requires a decrease in velocity and vice versa. Thus, when a load is applied, the motor must reduce speed to compensate. One solution to the torque-speed problem is to use a ‘speed-controlled DC motor’, which contains a controller that increases and decreases current to the motor in the face of changing load to try and maintain a constant speed. These motors are typically expensive and run from an AC source since the controller converts from AC to DC.
AC motors provide continuous rotary motion but usually rely on current supplied by power companies. They are limited to a few speeds that are a function of the AC line frequency, e.g., 60 Hz in the U.S. The most common AC motor no-load speeds are 1725 and 3450 revolutions per minute (rpm), which represent some slippage from the more expensive synchronous AC motors speeds of 1800 and 3600 rpm. If other outputs speeds are desired, a gearbox speed reducer is attached to the motor's output shaft.
AC and DC motors are designed to provide continuous rotary output. Though they can be stalled against a load, they will not tolerate a full voltage, zero velocity stall for an extended period of time without overheating.
Servomotors are fast response, closed loop control motors capable of providing a programmed function of acceleration or velocity, or capable of holding a fixed position against a load. Thus, precise positioning of the output device is possible, as is control of the speed and shape of its time response to changes in load or input commands. However, these devices are very expensive and are commonly used in applications that justify their cost such as moving the flight control services of aircraft.
Stepper motors are designed to position an output device. Unlike servomotors, these are typically open loop, meaning they receive no feedback as to whether the output device has responded as requested. While being relatively good at holding the output in one position for indefinite period, they often are poor with motion and get out of phase with a desired control. In addition, these motors are moderately expensive, have a low torque capacity, and also require special controllers.
Most electromagnetic motors must consume electrical energy to maintain a force or torque. The only exceptions would be motors with preferred magnetic positions such as stepper motors that can resist a torque up to the torque that causes rotor slippage. But even stepper motors cannot provide a constant static torque at an arbitrary rotor position unless power is used. Thus, conventional electromagnetic motors typically use power even to hold a static torque where no external work is done. This is why at stall and low speed conditions the efficiency of almost all electromagnetic motors is poor.
Air and hydraulic motors have more limited application than electric motors since they require the availability of a compressed air or hydraulic source. Both these classes of motors provide poor energy efficiency due to the losses associated with the conversion of energy first from chemical or electrical energy to fluid pressure and then to mechanical output. Although individual air motors and air cylinders are relatively cheap, these pneumatic systems are quite expensive when the cost of all the ancillary equipment is considered.
In addition to the specific drawbacks discussed with respect to each class of motor, all of the above motors classes are generally heavy, bulky and not suitable for many applications such as those requiring light weight continuous output. In view of the foregoing, improved systems that convert from an input energy to mechanical energy would be desirable.
In one aspect, the present invention relates to a new class of motors and electrical-mechanical power conversion systems. The systems comprise one or more electroactive polymers that convert between electrical and mechanical energy. When a voltage is applied to electrodes contacting an electroactive polymer, the polymer deflects. This deflection may be converted into rotation of a power shaft included in a motor using a clutch. The clutch allows engagement and disengagement between a driving member (an electroactive polymer transducer) and a driven member (a power shaft). Repeated deflection of the polymer may then produce continuous rotation of the power shaft.
Alternatively, when an electroactive polymer deflects, an electric field is produced in the polymer. This electric field may be used to produce electrical energy. Rotation of a power shaft may be used to deflect electroactive polymer. Continuous rotation of the power shaft made then be used to produce continuous electrical energy via the electroactive polymer.
In another aspect, the present invention relates to a mechanical-electrical power conversion system. The system comprises a power shaft configured to rotate about an axis. The system also has a transducer comprising an active area, which includes at least a portion of an electroactive polymer and at least two active area electrodes coupled to the portion of the electroactive polymer. The electroactive polymer includes pre-strain. The system further comprises a clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the transducer and the power shaft, the clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the transducer.
In yet another aspect, the present invention relates to a mechanical-electrical power conversion system. The system comprises a power shaft configured to rotate about an axis. The system also comprises a first transducer comprising an active area, which includes at least a portion of a first electroactive polymer and at least two active area electrodes coupled to the portion of the first electroactive polymer. The system further comprises a first clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the first transducer and the power shaft, the first clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the first transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the first transducer. The system additionally comprises a second transducer comprising an active area, which includes at least a portion of a second electroactive polymer and at least two active area electrodes coupled to the portion of the second electroactive polymer. The system also comprises a second clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the second transducer and the power shaft, the second clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the second transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the second transducer.
In still another aspect, the present invention relates to a mechanical-electrical power conversion system. The system comprises a power shaft configured to rotate about an axis. The system also comprises a transducer comprising an active area, which includes at least a portion of an electroactive polymer and at least two active area electrodes coupled to the portion of the electroactive polymer. The system further comprises a first clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the transducer and the power shaft, the first clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the transducer, the engagement of the first clutch producing rotation of the power shaft in a first direction about the axis for a first direction of deflection of the transducer. The system additionally comprises a second clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the transducer and the power shaft, the second clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the transducer, the engagement of the second clutch producing rotation of the power shaft in the first direction about the axis for a second direction of deflection of the transducer.
In another aspect, the present invention relates to a mechanical-electrical power conversion system. The system comprises a power shaft configured to rotate about an axis. The system also comprises a transducer comprising a first active area and a second active area. The first active area has at least two first active area electrodes and a first portion of the electroactive polymer arranged in a manner which causes the first portion to deflect in response to a change in electric field provided by the at least two first active area electrodes. The second active area has at least two second active area electrodes and a second portion of the electroactive polymer arranged in a manner which causes the second portion to deflect in response to a change in electric field provided by the at least two second active area electrodes. The system additionally comprises a clutch for transmitting mechanical energy between the transducer and the power shaft, the clutch operably coupled to the power shaft and the transducer in a manner allowing engagement and disengagement of the power shaft to the transducer.
In yet another aspect, the present invention relates to a device for converting between electrical energy and mechanical energy. The device comprises at least one transducer. Each transducer has at least two electrodes. Each transducer also comprises a polymer arranged in a manner which causes a first portion of the polymer to deflect in the first direction in response to a change in electric field and/or arranged in a manner which causes a change in electric field in response to deflection of the polymer in the first direction. The device further comprises a first substantially rigid member attached to a second portion of the polymer. The device additionally comprises a second substantially rigid member attached to a third portion of the polymer, the second portion and the third portion arranged to increase in distance therebetween upon deflection of the first portion. The device also comprises a first flexure coupled to the first and second members, wherein the first flexure improves torsional stiffness for the device.
These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be described in the following description of the invention and associated figures.
The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to a few preferred embodiments thereof as illustrated in the accompanying drawings. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known process steps and/or structures have not been described in detail in order to not unnecessarily obscure the present invention.
In one aspect, the present invention relates to continuous output systems that include one or more electroactive polymer transducers. When actuated, a transducer of the present invention produces deflection in one or more directions. Repeated actuation of the transducer may produce reciprocating motion. Reciprocating motion of a transducer may be converted to continuous rotary motion of a power shaft included in a motor using a clutch. When engaged, the clutch transmits deflection and power from an electroactive polymer transducer, a portion thereof, to the power shaft. A motor in accordance with the present invention comprises one or more transducers and clutches configured in a particular motor design. Combining different ways to configure and constrain a polymer within a motor, different ways to arrange active areas on a single or multiple polymers, different motor designs, scalability of electroactive polymers to both micro and macro levels, and different polymer orientations (e.g., rolling or stacking individual polymer layers) permits a broad range of motors that convert electrical energy into mechanical power. These motors find use in a wide range of applications.
For ease of understanding, the present invention is mainly described and shown by focusing on a single direction of energy conversion. More specifically, the present invention focuses on converting electrical energy into mechanical energy. The mechanical energy is most often described herein as continuous rotary output power or rotary output for a number of polymer deflections. However, in all the figures and discussions for the present invention, it is important to note that the polymers and systems may convert between electrical energy and mechanical energy bi-directionally. Thus, any of the electroactive polymer systems and motor designs described herein also convert mechanical energy to electrical energy (generator mode) by oscillating the shaft input though an angle. Typically, a generator of the present invention comprises a polymer arranged in a manner that causes a change in electric field in response to deflection of a portion of the polymer. The change in electric field, along with changes in the polymer dimension in the direction of the field, produces a change in voltage, and hence a change in electrical energy.
For a transducer having a substantially constant thickness, one mechanism for differentiating the performance of the transducer, or a portion of the transducer associated with a single active area, as being an actuator or a generator is in the change in net area orthogonal to the thickness associated with the polymer deflection. For these transducers or active areas, when the deflection causes the net area of the transducer/active area to decrease and there is charge on the electrodes, the transducer/active area is converting from mechanical to electrical energy and acting as a generator. Conversely, when the deflection causes the net area of the transducer/active area to increase and charge is on the electrodes; the transducer/active area is converting electrical to mechanical energy and acting as an actuator. The change in area in both cases corresponds to a reverse change in film thickness, i.e., the thickness contracts when the planar area expands, and the thickness expands when the planar area contracts. Both the change in area and change in thickness affect the amount of energy that is converted between electrical and mechanical. Since the effects due to a change in area and corresponding change in thickness are complementary, only the change in area will be discussed herein for sake of brevity. In addition, although deflection of an electroactive polymer will primarily be discussed as a net increase in area of the polymer when the polymer is being used in an actuator to produce mechanical energy, it is understood that in some cases (i.e. depending on the loading), the net area may decrease to produce mechanical work. Alternatively, when an electroactive polymer is continuously being cycled between actuator and generator modes, electrical or mechanical (elastic) energy may be stored from one part of the cycle for use in other parts of the cycle. This may further introduce situations in which the net area may decrease to produce mechanical work. Thus, devices of the present invention may include both actuator and generator modes, depending on how the polymer is arranged and applied.
2. GENERAL STRUCTURE OF ELECTROACTIVE POLYMERS
The transformation between electrical and mechanical energy in devices of the present invention is based on energy conversion of one or more active areas of an electroactive polymer. Electroactive polymers deflect when actuated by electrical energy. To help illustrate the performance of an electroactive polymer in converting electrical energy to mechanical energy,
In some cases, electrodes 104 and 106 cover a limited portion of polymer 102 relative to the total area of the polymer. This may be done to prevent electrical breakdown around the edge of polymer 102 or to achieve customized deflections for one or more portions of the polymer. As the term is used herein, an active area is defined as a portion of a transducer comprising polymer material 102 and at least two electrodes. When the active area is used to convert electrical energy to mechanical energy, the active area includes a portion of polymer 102 having sufficient electrostatic force to enable deflection of the portion. When the active area is used to convert mechanical energy to electrical energy, the active area includes a portion of polymer 102 having sufficient deflection to enable a change in electrostatic energy. As will be described below, a polymer of the present invention may have multiple active areas. In some cases, polymer 102 material outside an active area may act as an external spring force on the active area during deflection. More specifically, polymer material outside the active area may resist active area deflection by its elastic contraction or expansion. Removal of the voltage difference and the induced charge causes the reverse effects.
Electrodes 104 and 106 are compliant and change shape with polymer 102. The configuration of polymer 102 and electrodes 104 and 106 provides for increasing polymer 102 response with deflection. More specifically, as the transducer portion 100 deflects, compression of polymer 102 brings the opposite charges of electrodes 104 and 106 closer and the stretching of polymer 102 separates similar charges in each electrode. In one embodiment, one of the electrodes 104 and 106 is ground.
In general, the transducer portion 100 continues to deflect until mechanical forces balance the electrostatic forces driving the deflection. The mechanical forces include elastic restoring forces of the polymer 102 material, the compliance of electrodes 104 and 106, and any external resistance provided by a device and/or load coupled to the transducer portion 100, etc. The deflection of the transducer portion 100 as a result of the applied voltage may also depend on a number of other factors such as the polymer 102 dielectric constant and the size of polymer 102.
Electroactive polymers in accordance with the present invention are capable of deflection in any direction. After application of the voltage between the electrodes 104 and 106, the electroactive polymer 102 increases in size in both planar directions 108 and 110. In some cases, the electroactive polymer 102 is incompressible, e.g. has a substantially constant volume under stress. In this case, the polymer 102 decreases in thickness as a result of the expansion in the planar directions 108 and 110. It should be noted that the present invention is not limited to incompressible polymers and deflection of the polymer 102 may not conform to such a simple relationship.
Application of a relatively large voltage difference between electrodes 104 and 106 on the transducer portion 100 shown in
In some cases, the transducer portion 100 may be described electrically as a variable capacitor. The capacitance decreases for the shape change going from that shown in
The transducer portion 100 will convert mechanical energy to electrical energy when it contracts. Some or all of the charge and energy can be removed when the transducer portion 100 is fully contracted in the plane defined by directions 108 and 110. Alternatively, some or all of the charge and energy can be removed during contraction. If the electric field pressure in the polymer increases and reaches balance with the mechanical elastic restoring forces and external load during contraction, the contraction will stop before full contraction, and no further elastic mechanical energy will be converted to electrical energy. Removing some of the charge and stored electrical energy reduces the electrical field pressure, thereby allowing contraction to continue. Thus, removing some of the charge may further convert mechanical energy to electrical energy. The exact electrical behavior of the transducer portion 100 when operating as a generator depends on any electrical and mechanical loading as well as the intrinsic properties of polymer 102 and electrodes 104 and 106.
In one embodiment, electroactive polymer 102 is pre-strained. Pre-strain of a polymer may be described, in one or more directions, as the change in dimension in a direction after pre-straining relative to the dimension in that direction before pre-straining. The pre-strain may comprise elastic deformation of polymer 102 and be formed, for example, by stretching the polymer in tension and fixing one or more of the edges while stretched. For many polymers, pre-strain improves conversion between electrical and mechanical energy. The improved mechanical response enables greater mechanical work for an electroactive polymer, e.g., larger deflections and actuation pressures. In one embodiment, prestrain improves the dielectric strength of the polymer. In another embodiment, the pre-strain is elastic. After actuation, an elastically pre-strained polymer could, in principle, be unfixed and return to its original state. The pre-strain may be imposed at the boundaries using a rigid frame or may also be implemented locally for a portion of the polymer.
In one embodiment, pre-strain is applied uniformly over a portion of polymer 102 to produce an isotropic pre-strained polymer. For example, an acrylic elastomeric polymer may be stretched by 200 to 400 percent in both planar directions. In another embodiment, pre-strain is applied unequally in different directions for a portion of polymer 102 to produce an anisotropic pre-strained polymer. In this case, polymer 102 may deflect greater in one direction than another when actuated. While not wishing to be bound by theory, it is believed that pre-straining a polymer in one direction may increase the stiffness of the polymer in the pre-strain direction. Correspondingly, the polymer is relatively stiffer in the high pre-strain direction and more compliant in the low pre-strain direction and, upon actuation, more deflection occurs in the low pre-strain direction. In one embodiment, the deflection in direction 108 of transducer portion 100 can be enhanced by exploiting large pre-strain in the perpendicular direction 110. For example, an acrylic elastomeric polymer used as the transducer portion 100 may be stretched by 100 percent in direction 108 and by 500 percent in the perpendicular direction 110. The quantity of pre-strain for a polymer may be based on the polymer material and the desired performance of the polymer in an application. Pre-strain suitable for use with the present invention is further described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/619,848, which is incorporated by reference for all purposes.
Generally, after the polymer is pre-strained, it may be fixed to one or more objects. Each object is preferably suitably stiff to maintain the level of pre-strain desired in the polymer. The polymer may be fixed to the one or more objects according to any conventional method known in the art such as a chemical adhesive, an adhesive layer or material, mechanical attachment, etc.
Transducers and pre-strained polymers of the present invention are not limited to any particular geometry or type of deflection. For example, the polymer and electrodes may be formed into any geometry or shape including tubes and rolls, stretched polymers attached between multiple rigid structures, stretched polymers attached across a frame of any geometry—including curved or complex geometries, across a frame having one or more joints, etc. Deflection of a transducer according to the present invention includes linear expansion and compression in one or more directions, bending, axial deflection when the polymer is rolled, deflection out of a hole provided on a substrate, etc. Deflection of a transducer may be affected by how the polymer is constrained by a frame or rigid structures attached to the polymer. In one embodiment, a flexible material that is stiffer in elongation than the polymer is attached to one side of a transducer to induce bending when the polymer is actuated.
Materials suitable for use as a pre-strained polymer with the present invention may include any substantially insulating polymer or rubber (or combination thereof) that deforms in response to an electrostatic force or whose deformation results in a change in electric field. One suitable material is NuSil CF 19-2186 as provided by NuSil Technology of Carpenteria, Calif. Other exemplary materials suitable for use as a pre-strained polymer include silicone elastomers, acrylic elastomers such as VHB 4910 acrylic elastomer as produced by 3M Corporation of St. Paul, Minn., polyurethanes, thermoplastic elastomers, copolymers comprising PVDF, pressure-sensitive adhesives, fluoroelastomers, polymers comprising silicone and acrylic moieties, and the like. Polymers comprising silicone and acrylic moieties may include copolymers comprising silicone and acrylic moieties, polymer blends comprising a silicone elastomer and an acrylic elastomer, for example. Combinations of some of these materials may also be used as the electroactive polymer in transducers of this invention.
An electroactive polymer layer in transducers of the present invention may have a wide range of thicknesses. In one embodiment, polymer thickness may range between about 1 micrometer and 2 millimeters. Polymer thickness may be reduced by stretching the film in one or both planar directions. In many cases, electroactive polymers of the present invention may be fabricated and implemented as thin films. Thicknesses suitable for these thin films may be below 50 micrometers.
Although the discussion so far has focused primarily on one type of electroactive polymer commonly referred to as dielectric elastomers (transducer 100 of
Suitable actuation voltages for electroactive polymers, or portions thereof, may vary based on the material properties of the electroactive polymer, such as the dielectric constant, as well as the dimensions of the polymer, such as the thickness of the polymer film. For example, actuation electric fields used to actuate polymer 102 in
As electroactive polymers of the present invention may deflect at high strains, electrodes attached to the polymers should also deflect without compromising mechanical or electrical performance. Generally, electrodes suitable for use with the present invention may be of any shape and material provided that they are able to supply a suitable voltage to, or receive a suitable voltage from, an electroactive polymer. The voltage may be either constant or varying over time. In one embodiment, the electrodes adhere to a surface of the polymer. Electrodes adhering to the polymer are preferably compliant and conform to the changing shape of the polymer. Correspondingly, the present invention may include compliant electrodes that conform to the shape of an electroactive polymer to which they are attached. The electrodes may be only applied to a portion of an electroactive polymer and define an active area according to their geometry. Several examples of electrodes that only cover a portion of an electroactive polymer will be described in further detail below.
Various types of electrodes suitable for use with the present invention are described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/619,848, which was previously incorporated by reference above. Electrodes described therein and suitable for use with the present invention include structured electrodes comprising metal traces and charge distribution layers, textured electrodes comprising varying out of plane dimensions, conductive greases such as carbon greases or silver greases, colloidal suspensions, high aspect ratio conductive materials such as carbon fibrils and carbon nanotubes, and mixtures of ionically conductive materials.
Materials used for electrodes of the present invention may vary. Suitable materials used in an electrode may include graphite, carbon black, colloidal suspensions, thin metals including silver and gold, silver filled and carbon filled gels and polymers, and ionically or electrically conductive polymers. In a specific embodiment, an electrode suitable for use with the present invention comprises 80 percent carbon grease and 20 percent carbon black in a silicone rubber binder such as Stockwell RTV60-CON as produced by Stockwell Rubber Co. Inc. of Philadelphia, Pa. The carbon grease is of the type such as NyoGel 756G as provided by Nye Lubricant Inc. of Fairhaven, Mass. The conductive grease may also be mixed with an elastomer, such as silicon elastomer RTV 118 as produced by General Electric of Waterford, N.Y., to provide a gel-like conductive grease.
It is understood that certain electrode materials may work well with particular polymers and may not work as well for others. For example, carbon fibrils work well with acrylic elastomer polymers while not as well with silicone polymers. For most transducers, desirable properties for the compliant electrode may include one or more of the following: low modulus of elasticity, low mechanical damping, low surface resistivity, uniform resistivity, chemical and environmental stability, chemical compatibility with the electroactive polymer, good adherence to the electroactive polymer, and the ability to form smooth surfaces. In some cases, a transducer of the present invention may implement two different types of electrodes, e.g. a different electrode type for each active area or different electrode types on opposing sides of a polymer.
Electronic drivers are typically connected to the electrodes. The voltage provided to electroactive polymer will depend upon specifics of an application. In one embodiment, a transducer of the present invention is driven electrically by modulating an applied voltage about a DC bias voltage. Modulation about a bias voltage allows for improved sensitivity and linearity of the transducer to the applied voltage. For example, a transducer used in an audio application may be driven by a signal of up to 200 to 1000 volts peak to peak on top of a bias voltage ranging from about 750 to 2000 volts DC.
3. MULTIPLE ACTIVE AREAS
In accordance with the present invention, the term “monolithic” is used herein to refer to electroactive polymers, transducers, and devices comprising a plurality of active areas.
The active area 152 a has top and bottom electrodes 154 a and 154 b attached to the polymer 151 on its top and bottom surfaces 151 c and 151 d, respectively. The electrodes 154 a and 154 b provide a voltage difference across a portion 151 a of the polymer 151. The portion 151 a deflects with a change in electric field provided by the electrodes 154 a and 154 b. The portion 151 a comprises the polymer 151 between the electrodes 154 a and 154 b and any other portions of the polymer 151 having sufficient electrostatic force to enable deflection upon application of voltages using the electrodes 154 a and 154 b. When the device 150 is used as a generator to convert from electrical energy to mechanical energy, deflection of the portion 151 a causes a change in electric field in the portion 151 a that is received as a change in voltage difference by the electrodes 154 a and 154 b.
The active area 152 b has top and bottom electrodes 156 a and 156 b attached to the polymer 151 on its top and bottom surfaces 151 c and 151 d, respectively. The electrodes 156 a and 156 b provide a voltage difference across a portion 151 b of the polymer 151. The portion 151 b deflects with a change in electric field provided by the electrodes 156 a and 156 b. The portion 151 b comprises the polymer 151 between the electrodes 156 a and 156 b and any other portions of the polymer 151 having sufficient stress induced by the electrostatic force to enable deflection upon application of voltages using the electrodes 156 a and 156 b. When the device 150 is used as a generator to convert from electrical energy to mechanical energy, deflection of the portion 151 b causes a change in electric field in the portion 151 b that is received as a change in voltage difference by the electrodes 156 a and 156 b.
The active areas for monolithic polymers and transducers of the present invention may be flexibly arranged. In one embodiment, active areas in a polymer are arranged such that elasticity of the active areas is balanced. In another embodiment, a transducer of the present invention includes a plurality of symmetrically arranged active areas. Further description of monolithic transducers suitable for use with the present invention are further described in commonly owned U.S. Pat. No. 6,664,718, which is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes.
4. ACTUATOR DESIGNS
The deflection of an electroactive polymer can be used in a variety of ways to produce or receive mechanical energy. One common implementation of a transducer in a motor is within an actuator. Several exemplary actuators suitable for use with motors of the present invention will now be discussed.
Expansion in one direction of an electroactive polymer may induce contractile stresses in a second direction such as due to Poisson effects. This may reduce the mechanical output for a transducer that provides mechanical output in the second direction. Correspondingly, actuators used in motors of the present invention may be designed to constrain a polymer in the non-output direction. In some cases, actuators may be designed to improve mechanical output using deflection in the non-output direction.
An actuator that uses deflection in one planar direction to improve energy conversion in the other planar direction is a bow actuator.
The polymer 206 is configured with different levels of pre-strain in its orthogonal directions. More specifically, electroactive polymer 206 includes a high pre-strain in the planar direction 208, and little or no pre-strain in the perpendicular planar direction 210. This anisotropic pre-strain is arranged relative to the geometry of the frame 202. More specifically, upon actuation using electrodes 207, the polymer contracts in the high pre-strained direction 208. With the restricted motion of the frame 202 and the lever arm provided by the members 204, this contraction helps drive deflection in the perpendicular planar direction 210. Thus, even for a short deflection of the polymer 206 in the high pre-strain direction 208, the frame 202 bows outward in the direction 210. In this manner, a small contraction in the high pre-strain direction 210 becomes a larger expansion in the relatively low pre-strain direction 208.
Using the anisotropic pre-strain and constraint provided by the frame 202, the bow actuator 200 allows contraction in one direction to enhance mechanical deflection and electrical to mechanical conversion in another. In other words, a load 211 (
The pre-strain in the polymer 206 and constraint provided by the frame 202 may also allow the bow actuator 200 to use lower actuation voltages for the pre-strained polymer 206 for a given deflection. As the bow actuator 200 has a lower effective modulus of elasticity in the low pre-strained direction 210, the mechanical constraint provided by the frame 202 allows the bow actuator 200 to be actuated in the direction 210 to a larger deflection with a lower voltage. In addition, the high pre-strain in the direction 208 increases the breakdown strength of the polymer 206, permitting higher voltages and higher deflections for the bow actuator 200.
In one embodiment, the bow actuator 200 may include additional components to provide mechanical assistance and enhance deflection. By way of example, springs 220 as shown in
The shape and constraint of an electroactive polymer may affect deflection. An aspect ratio for an electroactive polymer is defined as the ratio of its length to width. If the aspect ratio is high (e.g., an aspect ratio of at least about 4:1) and the polymer is constrained along its length by rigid members, than the combination may result in a substantially one-dimensional deflection in the width direction.
A collection of electroactive polymers or actuators may be mechanically linked to form a larger actuator with a common output, e.g. force and/or displacement. By using a small electroactive polymer as a base unit in a collection, conversion of electric energy to mechanical energy may be scaled according to an application. By way of example, multiple linear motion actuators 230 may be combined in series in the direction 235 to form an actuator having a cumulative deflection of all the linear motion actuators in the series.
An electroactive polymer is typically compliant and does not provide a large stiffness, e.g., relative to a solid structure. Many mechanical applications require an electroactive polymer actuator having stiffness in all directions but the direction of actuation. Rigid members may be included in a device and provide stiffness in one or more directions. However, these stiff members may constrain deflection of the polymer and are typically not used in the direction of output motion.
The stiff members 354 and 355 are attached along opposite edges 352 a and 352 b, respectively, of the polymer 352. The stiff members 354 and 355 have a greater stiffness than the polymer 352. The added stiffness and geometric constraint provided by the stiff members 354 and 355 substantially prevents displacement in a direction 359 a along the polymer length. Using only the stiff members, compliance for the device 350 remains in the direction 351 and any torsional deflection about the polymer 352.
Upon actuation of the polymer 352, expansion of the polymer 352 in the direction 351 causes edges 352 a and 352 b and the stiff members 354 and 355 to move apart, as shown in
Flexures 357 and 358 provide torsional stiffness for the device 350. Without flexures 357 and 358, the stiff members 354 and 355 may twist out of the plane of the polymer 352. In one embodiment, each flexure 357 and 358 is a two-bar linkage. For example, the flexure 357 comprises first and second members 361 and 362 hingeably coupled to each other at their proximate ends 361 a and 362 a, respectively. The first and second members 361 and 362 are also hingeably coupled to the stiff members 354 and 355 at their distal ends 361 b and 362 b, respectively. The first and second members 361 and 362 prevent torsion about the axis 351 but allow deflection of the device linearly in the direction 359 b.
One advantage of the device 350 is that the entire structure is planar. This allows for easy mechanical coupling and simple expansion to produce multiple polymer designs. By way of example, the stiff members 354 and 355 may be mechanically coupled (e.g. glued or similarly fixed) to their respective counterparts of a second device 350 to provide two devices 350 in parallel in order to increase the force output over a single device 350. Similarly, the stiff member 354 from one device may be attached to the stiff member 355 from a second device in order to provide multiple actuators in series that increase the deflection output over a single device 350.
The constraint and shape of an electroactive polymer may affect deflection. In one embodiment, the polymer 352 has a length (along the dimension 359 b) substantially greater than its width (along the dimension 359 a). In a specific embodiment, the polymer has an aspect ratio at least about 4:1. In another embodiment, the device 350 is implemented with a polymer 352 having anisotropic pre-strain. For example, the polymer may include a higher pre-strain in the direction 359 a than the direction 359 b. As a result, the polymer 352 is stiffer in the direction 359 a than the direction 359 b and larger deflections in the direction 359 b may result during actuation when voltage is applied to the electrodes 360.
In another embodiment, electroactive polymers suitable for use with motors of the present invention may be rolled or folded into linear transducers and actuators that deflect axially while converting from electrical energy to mechanical energy. As fabrication of electroactive polymers is often simplest with fewer numbers of layers, rolled actuators provide an efficient manner of squeezing large layers of polymer into a compact shape. Rolled or folded transducers and actuators typically include two or more layers of polymer. Rolled or folded actuators are applicable wherever linear actuators are used, such as robotic legs and fingers, high force grippers, or any of the motor designs described below.
When the electrode pair 275 is actuated, a portion of the polymer 273 between and in the vicinity of the top and bottom electrode pair 275 expands relative to the rest of the polymer 273 and the existing tension in the remainder of the polymer 273 pulls the rigid bar 274 to move to the right. Conversely, when the electrode pair 276 is actuated, a second portion of the polymer 273 affected by the electrode pair 276 expands relative to the rest of the polymer 273 and allows the rigid bar 274 to move to the left. Alternating actuation of the electrodes 275 and 276 provides a total stroke 279 for the rigid bar 274. One variation of this actuator includes adding anisotropic pre-strain to the polymer such that the polymer has high pre-strain (and stiffness) in the direction perpendicular to the rigid bar displacement. Another variation is to eliminate one of the electrode pairs. For the benefit of simplifying the design, this variation reduces the stroke 279 for the stretched film actuator 270. In this case, the portion of the polymer no longer used by the removed electrode now responds passively like a restoring spring.
The flexures 316 and 318 couple polymer 302 deflection in one direction into deflection in another direction. In one embodiment, each of the flexures 316 and 318 rest at an angle about 45 degrees in the plane of the polymer 302. Upon actuation of the polymer 302, expansion of the polymer 302 in the direction 320 causes the stiff members 308 and 310 to move apart, as shown in
The polymer 302 is configured with different levels of pre-strain in orthogonal directions 320 and 322. This anisotropic pre-strain is arranged relative to the geometry of the flexures 316 and 318. More specifically, the polymer 302 includes a higher pre-strain in the direction 320, and little or no pre-strain in the perpendicular planar direction 322.
The flexures 316 and 318 couple polymer 302 deflection in one direction into deflection in another direction. In one embodiment, each of the flexures 316 and 318 rest at an angle about 45 degrees in the plane of the polymer 302. Upon actuation of the polymer 302, expansion of the polymer 302 in the direction 320 causes the stiff members 308 and 310 to move apart, as shown in
5. MOTOR DESIGNS
In general, a motor in accordance with the present invention comprises one or more electroactive polymers configured in a particular motor design. The design converts repeated deflection of an electroactive polymer into continuous rotation of a power shaft included in a motor. There are an abundant number of motor designs suitable for use with the present invention—including conventional motor designs retrofitted with one or more electroactive polymers and custom motor designs specially designed for electroactive polymer usage. Several motor designs suitable for use with the present invention will now be discussed. These exemplary rotary motor designs convert deflection of one or more electroactive polymers into output rotary motion.
In one aspect, a motor of the present invention comprises one or more clutches. In general, a clutch allows engagement and disengagement between a driving member and a driven member. Most commonly, the driving member is coupled to an electroactive polymer transducer and the driven member is a power shaft. When engaged, the clutch transmits deflection and power from the transducer, a portion thereof, or a structure attached thereto, to the power shaft. When disengaged, the clutch provides disconnection between the transducer and the power shaft. In other words, when the clutch is disengaged, the transducer may deflect without transferring mechanical power to the power shaft.
Transducer 402 comprises electroactive polymer 407 and electrodes 405 a and b deposited on opposing surfaces of polymer 407 (only facing electrodes 405 is shown). One edge of electroactive polymer 407 is attached to rigid member 406, which is fixed. Rigid member 408 is attached to a central portion of electroactive polymer 407 and translates in lateral direction 410. When the left portion of electroactive polymer 407 is actuated and expands using electrodes 405 a, rigid member 408 deflects linearly in lateral actuation direction 410 a. When electroactive polymer 407 is actuated and expands using electrodes 405 b, rigid member 408 deflects linearly in lateral actuation direction 410 b. Repeatedly actuating electrode pairs 405 a and b in turn produces reciprocating linear deflection for rigid member 408.
Fixed to and orthogonally extending from the rigid member 408 is a rigid member 409 that includes rack 412 on one surface. Rack 412 meshes with pinion 414 circumferentially disposed on clutch 404. Together, the clutch 404, rack 412 and pinion 414 convert reciprocating linear deflection of transducer 402 into a single direction of rotation for power shaft 403. When engaged, clutch 404 transmits linear deflection in the lateral direction 410 a of rigid member 409 into clockwise rotation of power shaft 403. When disengaged, clutch 404 provides disconnection between rack 412 and output shaft 403 for deflection of rigid member 409 in linear return direction 410 b, thus producing no counterclockwise rotation of power shaft 403. Correspondingly, when clutch 404 is disengaged, electroactive polymer 407 elastically contracts without transferring mechanical energy to output shaft 403. A clutch suitable for use with the present invention includes p/n NRC-4 as provided by Berg, Inc. of East Rockaway, N.Y.
Since the motor 400 comprises only one clutch that rectifies transducer 402 deflection to produce clockwise rotation of power shaft 403, it derives rotary output only from lateral actuation direction 410 a. Thus, there is no mechanical energy transferred to the power shaft 403 on the elastic return stroke when clutch 404 is disengaged. To capture mechanical energy produced during elastic return of the polymer, multiple clutches may be used. More specifically, a first clutch may engage the power shaft for actuation of the polymer and a second clutch engages the power shaft during elastic return of the power shaft. Multiple clutches for the same motor may be useful, for example, when viscoelastic losses in a motor are significant and any elastic energy available from elastic return of a polymer is substantially lost between actuations. Multiple clutches may also be useful when the motor is operating slowly compared to resonance of the electroactive polymer(s) included therein. In this case, even for an electroactive polymer with low losses, slow actuation of the electroactive polymer allows polymer material to lose the elastic return energy since the material will have time to make many energy-wasting vibrations between actuations.
Multiple clutches are also useful in transmitting deflection and power from multiple transducers and active areas to a single power shaft, particularly when the transducers and active areas actuate out of phase from each other or have different primary directions of actuation.
Transducers 422 and 424 each deflect in lateral directions 434 and 440. More specifically, when actuated using electrodes 435, rigid member 432 deflects linearly in lateral direction 434. Upon removal of the actuation voltage from electrodes 435, elastic restoring forces in the electroactive polymer 422 deflect rigid member 432 in direction 440. Similarly, when actuated using electrodes 441, rigid member 438 deflects linearly in direction 440. Upon removal of the actuation voltage from electrodes 441, elastic restoring forces in the electroactive polymer 429 deflect the rigid member 438 in lateral direction 434.
Clutches 428 and 430 convert deflection of transducers 422 and 424 into a single direction of rotation for power shaft 426. Clutches 428 and 430 are arranged such that their engagement rotates power shaft 426 in the same direction (clockwise as shown in
Cables 433 and 435 transmit linear deflection of the rigid bars 432 and 438 to the clutches 428 and 430. Cable 433 is attached to rigid bar 432, extends circumferentially around clutch 428, and is attached to the rigid bar 438. Together, clutch 428 (when engaged) and cable 433 transmit deflection in lateral direction 434 into clockwise rotation of shaft 426 for both actuation of transducer 422 and elastic contraction of polymer 429. Cable 435 is attached to rigid bar 432, extends around clutch 430, and is attached to rigid bar 438. Together, clutch 430 (when engaged) and cable 435 transmit deflection in lateral direction 440 into clockwise rotation of shaft 426 for both actuation of transducer 424 and elastic contraction of polymer 427. In one embodiment, cables 433 and 435 are fixed to the clutches 428 and 430 with suitable allowance for transducer stroke length. As shown in
As transducers 422 and 424 actuate in opposing linear directions, clutches 428 and 430 are operably coupled, via cables 433 and 435, to the output of transducers 422 and 424 such that one clutch is always engaging the output shaft 426 when one of the transducers is being actuated. Typically, transducers 422 and 424 are actuated out of phase from each other. More specifically, transducer 422 is actuated when voltage is removed from transducer 424 and transducer 424 is actuated when voltage is removed from transducer 422.
In some applications, it is important to maintain a substantially smooth and continuous output force for power shaft 426. With the two transducer motor 420 of
Transducers 447 a-d are sequentially fired in a timely manner to produce a smooth output force for power shaft 448. As the transducers 447 a-d actuate in opposing directions, the clutches 446 are coupled such that one clutch always engages power shaft 448 when one of the transducers is being actuated. Typically, transducer 447 a is actuated when voltage is removed from transducer 447 c and transducer 447 b is actuated when the voltage is removed from transducer 447 d. The timing of transducers 447 a and 447 c may then be offset accordingly to produce a smooth output force for power shaft 448. In a specific embodiment, actuation of one set of opposing transducers is timed to be at peak force in actuation stroke when the other set of opposing transducers 447 a-d is being electronically switched. In this manner, a smoother output force is maintained for the output shaft 448 that minimizes disruption in output force resulting from electronic switching delays to any of polymers and any mechanical backlash in the clutches 446.
Motors of the present invention may also comprise a monolithic transducer that provides power to rotate a power shaft. In this case, multiple active areas of the monolithic transducer provide independent forces for rotating the power shaft.
Translation member 505 includes a central portion 505 c and rigid bars 505 a and 505 b that extend from central portion 505 c, which is attached to the center of polymer 507. Translation member 505 provides displacement corresponding to deflection of polymer 507. Compliant electrode pairs 509 and 510 are patterned on both surfaces of polymer 507 on either side of rigid bar 505. When electrode pair 507 is actuated, translation member 505 moves in direction 508. Conversely, when electrode pair 509 is actuated, translation member 505 moves in direction 513. Alternating actuation of the electrodes 507 and 509 provides a total stroke 514 for translation member 505.
Clutch 504 transmits mechanical energy from monolithic transducer 502 to power shaft 512 in direction 508. Thus, engagement of clutch 504 produces rotation of power shaft 512 in a clockwise rotational direction for actuation using electrodes 507 and rigid bar 505 a movement to the right. Clutch 506 transmits mechanical energy from monolithic transducer 502 to power shaft 512 in direction 513. Thus, engagement of clutch 506 produces rotation of power shaft 512 in same clockwise direction as clutch 504, but for an opposite direction of deflection of monolithic transducer 502 corresponding to actuation using electrodes 509 and rigid bar 505 b movement to the left. Thus, clutch 504 disengages when clutch 506 engages, and vice versa.
Two clutches 530 are attached to power shaft 528 (only facing clutch 530 is shown). Cables 532 are attached to opposite sides of slot 522 and wrap around clutches 530. Together, clutches 530 and cables 532 translate power between transducer 524 and power shaft 528 for both lateral directions of transducer 524 deflection. Cables 532, clutches 530, and power shaft 528 are configured similar to the two clutch and cable system of
Upon actuation of electrode pair 534, rigid bar 526 and the attached slot 522 translate laterally to the left. As rigid bar 526 translates laterally to the left, cables 532 rotate both clutches 530. One clutch engages for motion to the left and rotates power shaft 528. Similarly, as rigid bar 526 translates laterally to the right, the other clutch 530 engages and rotates power shaft 528 in the same direction.
Actuation of actuator 542 causes power shaft 546 to rotate counterclockwise. A clutch 552 engages for counterclockwise rotation of power shaft 546 and causes wheel 559 to rotate counterclockwise. When actuation of actuator 542 is finished, actuation of actuator 544 begins. Together, actuation of actuator 544 and elastic return of the electroactive polymer included in actuator 542 rotate power shaft 546 clockwise. Clutch 552 disengages for clockwise rotation of power shaft 546. In this case, wheel 559 maintains enough counterclockwise momentum from the initial rotation of power shaft 546 to keep moving during actuation of actuator 544. When actuation of actuator 544 is finished, actuation of actuator 542 begins. Together, actuation of actuator 542 and elastic return of electroactive polymer included in actuator 544 rotate power shaft 546 counterclockwise. Again, clutch 552 engages for counterclockwise rotation of shaft 546 and adds power to the counterclockwise motion of wheel 559.
To improve consistent power output of motor 540, a mechanism is used to assist output. In this case, wheel 559 acts as a flywheel. Wheel 559 stores rotational energy during power impulses of actuator 542 and releases this energy between power impulses, thus assuring less fluctuation in motor 540 power and/or speed and smoother motor operation. The size of wheel 559 will vary with the general construction and implementation of motor 540. Alternatively, wheel 559 is useful when a load attached to motor 540 is changing in force. In this case, wheel 559 helps smooth out the speed variations introduced by the load variations.
Each of the active areas 562 a-d includes top and bottom electrodes 564 a-d attached to a polymer 561 on its top and bottom surfaces respectively (only the electrodes 564 a-d on the facing surface of the polymer 561 are illustrated). The electrodes 564 a-d each provide a voltage difference across a portion of the polymer 561. A first active area 562 a is formed with the two first active area electrodes 564 a and a first portion 561 a of the electroactive polymer. Similarly, a second active area 562 c is formed with the two second active area electrodes 564 c and a second portion of the electroactive polymer 561 c. A similar arrangement applies to the active areas 562 b and 562 d.
The electrodes 564 a-d and their corresponding active areas 562 a-d are symmetrically and radially arranged the center point of circular path 569 and power shaft 563. Correspondingly, the elasticity of the active areas 562 a-d is balanced about power shaft 563. As will be described below, the circular path 569 corresponds to a path of substantially constant elastic potential energy for the monolithic transducer of
A substantially rigid frame 567 is fixed to the perimeter of the circular polymer 561 using an adhesive. Crank pin 568 is attached to a central portion of polymer 561. Crank pin 568 deflection relative to the rigid frame 567 is thus guided by deflection of the central portion. Crank pin 568 thus deflects via the central portion as determined by actuation of active areas 562 a-d. In some cases, the offset of the crank (the distance from the central axis of the power shaft 563 to the center of the crank pin 568) is smaller for polymers that deflect less, and can be larger for polymers that deflect more.
Actuation of the active area 562 a moves crank pin 568 down. Actuation of the active area 562 b moves crank pin 568 to the left. Actuation of the active area 562 c moves crank pin 568 up. Actuation of the active area 562 d moves crank pin 568 to the right. The active areas 562 are arranged relative to each other such that elastic energy of one active area facilitates deflection of another. The active area 562 a is arranged relative to the active areas 562 c such that elastic energy of the active area 562 a may facilitate deflection of the active area 562 c. In this case, contraction of the active area 562 a at least partially facilitates expansion of the active area 562 c, and vice versa. More specifically, deflection of the active area 562 a includes a direction of contraction that is at least partially linearly aligned with a direction of expansion for the active area 562 c towards the active area 562 a. In another embodiment, the active areas 562 a-d are not grouped into opposing pairs. In order for the elastic energy of one active area to facilitate the deflection of another active area, it may only be necessary for the active areas share motion in a common linear direction. In this way the polymer of transducer 560 could have two, three, five or any number of active areas arranged such that the motion of one active area shares a direction with that of another area.
Active areas 562 a-d may be actuated sequentially to repeatedly move crank pin 568 along a portion 572 of the circular path 569. To achieve this, the active areas 562 a-d are actuated sequentially in a timely manner. For example, crank pin 568 may begin at the position as shown in
Clockwise motion of crankpin 568 provides clockwise rotation of power shaft 563. A clutch 571 engages for clockwise rotation of power shaft 563 and transmits power from power shaft 563 to a wheel 570 for clockwise rotation of power shaft 563. Clutch 571 disengages wheel 570 from power shaft 563 for counterclockwise rotation of power shaft 563.
At the extended position 573, shown by dotted lines in
Clockwise and counterclockwise motion of crank pin 568 along portion 572 of circular path 569 may then the repeatedly continued. Clutch 571 then rectifies this continuous motion to produce clockwise output of wheel 570. Similar to the wheel 559 of
6. ENERGY FEATURES
Electroactive polymer material provides a spring force during deflection. Typically, polymer material resists deflection during actuation because of the net increase (counting active and inactive areas) in elastic energy. Removal of the actuation voltage and the induced charge causes the reverse effects. In general, when actuation voltages and any external loads are removed, electroactive polymers, or portions thereof, elastically return to their resting position. In one aspect of the present invention, elastic properties of one or more portions of an electroactive polymer, and any energy contribution of external loads, are used to assist power shaft rotation.
In one embodiment, a motor of the present invention is arranged such that deflection of a polymer in response to a change in electric field is at least partially assisted by mechanical input energy. As the term is used herein, mechanical input energy refers to mechanical energy that contributes to deflection of a portion of an electroactive polymer. The mechanical input energy provided to a portion of an electroactive polymer may include elastic energy provided by another portion of the electroactive polymer, a portion of another electroactive polymer, a spring, etc. The mechanical input energy may also include energy provided an external load or mechanism coupled to the electroactive polymer, e.g, a flywheel coupled to a power shaft. The energy may also be provided without using a separate device, for example by exploiting the rotational energy stored in the shaft or by exploiting the inertial energy of the polymer mass or connection mass(es).
Cumulatively, the sum of elastic energy in a transducer or motor at a given instant of time may be referred to as the elastic potential energy of the transducer or motor. Elastic potential energy may be used to describe transducers and motors of the present invention and methods of deflecting these transducers and motors. In one embodiment, a motor is arranged such that deflection of an electroactive polymer is substantially independent of elastic potential energy. In this case, changes in elastic energy of one or more portions of an electroactive polymer are balanced by the changes in elastic energy in the remainder of the transducer or motor. Since the deflection does not cause a substantial change in the net elastic potential energy, the deflection can be made with relatively little input electrical energy, even though the individual elastic forces internal to the transducer or motor might be relatively larger. Mechanical input energy and substantially independent elastic potential energy deflection are described in further detail in copending U.S. Pat. No. 6,911,764, which is incorporated by reference for all purposes.
The motor 560 of
In one embodiment, the crank of motor 560 is a substantially loss-less motion constraint that constrains the deflection of the crank pin 568 along circular path 569. The rigid motion constraint provides the necessary forces perpendicular to circular path 569 at any given point to offset the elastic forces in that direction.
Deflection of the motor 560 includes mechanical input energy from different portions of the polymer 561. The mechanical input energy includes elastic energy contributions provided by contractions and expansions of each of the active areas 562 and portions of the polymer 561 outside the active areas 562. A motion constraint such as crank 565 does not provide any mechanical input energy by itself, but it provides mechanical forces perpendicular to motion on an equipotential elastic energy line to assist actuation by holding the motion to a path of substantially constant elastic energy, and thereby eliminate the need for the expansion and contraction of the polymer to provide these forces. The amount of mechanical input energy and timing of actuation may vary. In one embodiment, the total mechanical input energy provided by different portions of the polymer 561 is substantially equal to the elastic energy required to deflect the first active area 562 a for a part of the deflection. In another embodiment, the total mechanical input energy provided by different portions of the polymer 561 is substantially equal to the elastic energy required to deflect the first active area 562 a for an entire deflection corresponding to an actuation of one of the active areas 562.
For deflection along circular path 569, the change in total elastic energy for stretching portions of the polymer 561 during actuation of one or more of the active areas 562 a-d is substantially equal to the change in magnitude of the total elastic energy of contracting portions of the polymer 561. With the elastic energy balanced between the different portions of the polymer 561 along circular path 569, the mechanical output energy for motor 560 is greater for a given input voltage compared to an arrangement where the elastic energy is not balanced. In addition, an external load (e.g., the flywheel described above) coupled to crank pin 568 may also assist the crank pin 568 to provide an alternate source of energy to overcome changes in elastic energy. The flywheel can add or subtract the energy needed to make pin 568 move around circular path 569 in spite of small changes in elastic energy, and thus reduce the amount of elastic energy that needs to be provided by electrical actuation of the polymer.
An active area may include multiple directions of contraction and expansion. Correspondingly, elastic energy generated during actuation of one active area may used to facilitate deflection of more than one other active area. For motor 560, active areas 562 are arranged relative to each other such that elastic return of one active area 562 a-d may facilitate deflection of more than one other active area 562 a-d in a direction of actuation. More specifically, active areas 562 a and 562 c are arranged such that contraction of the active area 562 a may facilitate expansion of the active area 562 c in a direction towards the active area 562 a. In addition, active areas 562 a and 562 b are arranged such that contraction of the active area 562 a may facilitate expansion of the active area 562 b in a direction towards the active area 562 a.
The timing of deflection between active areas may affect elastic energy transfer therebetween. To increase elastic energy transfer for the motor 560, the active areas 561 a-d may be actuated at a high enough rate such that elastic return of one active area assists the deflection of more than one active area subsequently actuated. This may be useful for active areas having more than one direction of actuation. For example, to increase elastic energy transfer to the active areas 562 b and 561 c, actuation of active areas 562 b and 561 c may begin actuation during elastic return of active area 561 a. In this manner, elastic energy generated during actuation of active area 562 a is transferred to two active areas 562 b and 562 c actuated thereafter. A similar timing may be continuously applied as the active areas 562 a-d are actuated in turn.
For the motor 560, there is a complementary nature of the active areas 562 a-d on opposite sides of the crank pin 568. It should be noted that active areas and transducers for a motor need not be grouped in complementary pairs as described with the motor 560. For example, an odd number of active areas and transducers arranged around the crank pin 568 may still employ the elastic energy balance and mechanical input energy features described above. More specifically, three active areas arranged around the crank pin 568 at 120 degree intervals may still employ the elastic energy balance and mechanical input energy features described above. In this case, the expansion of one active area/transducer is paired with the contraction of more than one other active area/transducer.
Performance of a motor described herein may be described similar to conventional motor designs by parameters such as force output, power output, weight, efficiency, etc. The performance of motors comprising an electroactive polymer may also be described with parameters that may not be present in many conventional motor technologies.
Unlike conventional motor technologies whose power generation element provides a constant stroke, it should be noted that electroactive polymers are capable of providing varying deflection distances and stroke lengths. Thus, when coupled to a clutch and power shaft included in a motor, a transducer in accordance with the present invention is capable of varying deflection distances and stroke lengths. The transducer may then include a first deflection that rotates the power shaft a first amount corresponding to the first deflection, and a second deflection that rotates the power shaft a second amount corresponding to the second deflection. The second deflection may be greater or less than the first deflection and may be used to vary the output of the motor.
Electroactive polymer powered motors may be characterized in terms of the motor by itself or the performance of the motor in a specific application. Characterizing the performance of a motor by itself may relate to the material properties of the polymer included therein as well as the particular motor design.
As mentioned earlier with respect
The time for a polymer to rise (or fall) to its maximum (or minimum) actuation pressure is referred to as its response time. Transducers in accordance with the present invention may accommodate a wide range of response times. Depending on the size and configuration of the polymer, response times may range from about 0.01 milliseconds to 1 second, for example. A polymer excited at a high rate may also be characterized by an operational frequency. In one embodiment, maximum operational frequencies suitable for use with the present invention may be in the range of about 100 Hz to 100 kHz. Thus, motors of the present invention may have very good temporal response and control.
In one embodiment, one or more transducers included in a motor are actuated in resonant mode (e.g., the motor 400 of
The performance of an electroactive polymer motor as described herein may also be adapted using one or more conventional techniques. For example, a gear chain may be used to reduce the speed and increase the torque available from the motor. For applications requiring linear actuation, a rack or ball screw mechanism may convert the high torque rotary motion of an electroactive polymer motor into linear motion. For example, a small motor can be attached to lead screw to produce a slow but high-force and high-stroke linear actuator. More direct methods of linear motion may also be used. For example, a polymer linear actuator may be combined with two actuated clamps that can clamp an output shaft. One clamp is located at the “fixed” base of the linear actuator and the second is located at the moving end of the actuator. By timing the clamping action of the two clamps relative to the linear actuation of the polymer actuator, the shaft can be moved in an “inchworm-type” fashion. Similarly, a linear clutch may be used to rectify the oscillatory motion of a polymer actuator to a constant linear motion in one direction. If the clutch may be electrically engaged and disengaged, and a second such clutch is also included, then by selectively engaging the proper clutch the output shaft can be moved in either direction.
As the present invention includes transducers that may be implemented in both the micro and macro scales, and with a wide variety of motor designs, the present invention finds use in a broad range of applications where conversion between electrical and mechanical power is required. As one of skill in the art will appreciate, there are countless applications for motors. Broadly speaking, motors of the present invention may find use in any application requiring continuous mechanical output. These applications include robotics, pumps, animatronics, etc.
Due to the weight savings gained by using electroactive polymers in producing mechanical energy for a motor, the present invention is well-suited for applications that require a light weight motor. For example, the present invention is well-suited for applications that require a light weight motor that can operate at low speeds and yet obtain high-performance from the electroactive polymer materials. There are countless applications for a light weight, low rpm yet relatively high torque, and efficient motor. In addition, by using high speed electroactive polymers, the present invention is well-suited for applications that require a motor that can operate at high speeds and with low-torque. Further, the light weight gained by using a motor powered by an electroactive polymer allows improvements to many applications where weight of the motor is important to design. For example, remote-controlled cars that rely on one or more motors for power may require less electrical energy to power a lighter vehicle—thus allowing a smaller battery or the same battery to operate for a longer duration.
While this invention has been described in terms of several preferred embodiments, there are alterations, permutations, and equivalents that fall within the scope of this invention which have been omitted for brevity's sake. By way of example, although the present invention has been described in terms of several numerous applied material electrodes, the present invention is not limited to these materials and in some cases may include air as an electrode. In addition, although the exemplary mechanical-electrical power conversion systems described above were primarily described with respect to converting electrical to mechanical energy, it is understood that any of these systems may be used in the reverse direction, that is, in converting mechanical power to electrical power by oscillating the shaft though an angle. It is therefore intended that the scope of the invention should be determined with reference to the appended claims.
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|U.S. Classification||310/328, 310/800|
|International Classification||H01L41/08, H01L41/09|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10S310/80, H02N2/101, H01L41/0986|
|European Classification||H01L41/09L, H02N2/10B|
|Sep 23, 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: SRI INTERNATIONAL, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HEIM, JON;PELRINE, RONALD E.;KORNBLUH, ROY D.;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:023275/0336;SIGNING DATES FROM 20020503 TO 20020723
|Apr 25, 2012||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|May 25, 2016||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8